The true story of the Tuskegee airmen is given the Hollywood treatment, but the results may prove that history is sometimes more interesting than the movies. What the film does have going for it are some exhilarating war scenes.
African Americans were not given much confidence in World War II, but a group called the Tuskegee Airmen was allowed to fly, more as an experiment than anything else. They’re sent on thankless missions and given older hand-me-down planes.
The pilots are known by their nicknames, there’s “Easy” (Nate Parker), “Lightening” (David Oyelowo), “Smokey” (Ne-Yo), “Joker” (Elijah Kelley), “Ray Gun” (Tristan Wilds), “Neon” (Kevin Phillips), “Deacon” (Marcus T. Paulk), and “Bumps” (Michael B. Jordan). They’re led by Maj. Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Col. Bullard (Terrence Howard).
The commanders know that Col. Mortamus (Bryan Cranston) is doing all he can to shut the program down. However, when the airmen perform well in Operation Shingle they’re assigned to escort bomber runs. Usually the runs end with many bombers shot down by the Germans, but the airmen decide to fight differently and earn the respect of their fellow soldiers and go down in history.
Executive producer George Lucas has wanted to make a film about the Tuskegee Airmen since the 1980s, however a 1995 HBO film starring Lawrence Fishburne beat him down the runway. Filming on Lucas’ film would begin in 2009 with the film released in 2012. However, it seems that the film lost some heart along the way. Firstly, the battle sequences are spectacular. It’s in other departments where the film falters.
The character development is pretty much done by giving the characters those nicknames. They do give them some conflicts but they seem like ones that you’d find in those corny movies made during WWII. Howard and Gooding seem to be doing extended cameos. There are some rah-rah speeches that sound good, but also have the archaic feel of those older films. Although Lucas expressed that was what he was going for, old-fashioned and corny.
To be fair, the young cast does acquit themselves nicely, they’ve just been saddled with a mediocre script. I also found the music intrusive and it even overwhelms some of those speeches. The thing that the film seems more focused on is the aerial battles and it does get those aspects right. It seems that the true story that inspired the movie has much more human aspects than the CGI loving film goes into.
Red Tails is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features are confined to 15 minutes of excerpts of the documentary “Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War.” If you want the whole thing you need to buy the Blu-ray. That’s a tad disappointing for DVD buyers.
It’s a difficult call since the story of the Tuskegee Airmen is one that deserves to be told, but the film that inspired it falls short of the true story. There are some fantastic effects, but those a memorable movie do not make. I wish more time had been spend on the brave men flying the planes than on rendering them in the computer.
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